I don't know if other people wanting to be writers experience this, but I get driven by my obsession. It used to be Hunger Games, then Star Wars, Maze Runner, and finally Guardians of the Galaxy.

I tried changing my story a slight bit, but the changes didn't make it distinct enough. I'm driven by making my characters just like their characters.

How to not get driven by famous things?

  • 1
    Hi A.N.M. The is a Q/A site, not a forum. Your question actually needs to be a question, not a plea for help. I have edited your question title to reflect the question you are asking. Please feel free to edit if you don't think I got it right.
    – user16226
    May 9, 2017 at 23:10
  • Thanks Mark today is my first day signing up so I'm pretty new... I'm so glad I've found this site and I hope to learn how to get around. Thanks for giving me all the advice!
    – A.N.M
    May 10, 2017 at 0:24
  • Resign yourself to the fact that nothing you write is ever going to be entirely original, because somebody's bound to have thought up any ideas you might come up with already. You could embrace it by taking a well known story format and coming up with an interesting twist.
    – GordonM
    May 10, 2017 at 15:53
  • The best way is to keep away from the genre entirely while you write. In other words, when reading The Hunger Games, write a ghost story. When writing Future Dystopian, read Historical Romances. Alternatively, only read up on your subject through non-fiction research material while writing fiction.
    – Bookeater
    May 13, 2017 at 11:38
  • Welcome to Writing! It looks like you have taken the tour, and it's good! Just a tip considering this is a Q&A site, not a forum: you don't need to add "(solved)" to the title. By accepting and/or upvoting an answer, the system automatically marks the question as solved. Finally, enjoy the site :)
    – Andrew T.
    May 21, 2017 at 1:40

8 Answers 8


There is a fundamental difference between the desire to imitate and the desire to create. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to imitate. Indeed, it is the foundation of our social order. Imitation is how we learn to get along with each other. It is why originals tend to be outcasts. We are imitating animals.

The idea of being a creator is very appealing. Society encourages it in word as much as it discourages it in deed. Imitating the creative work of others that is already socially acceptable, whether it is through pastiche or through fan fiction, is a safe way to play at being a creator without taking any real risks.

Lauren is right that you can learn a lot of the mechanics of writing from writing pastiche, and most of us started out that way to one extent or another. But I disagree with her suggestion to keep on doing it. You have come to the point of realizing that you want to be more than an imitator. You are standing at the deep end of the pool and staring down at the water, knowing that if you jump in, your feet will not touch the bottom and you will have to swim.

It is time to jump.

It is never going to get less scary. No matter how many times you go back to the kiddy pool, there is nothing more for you to learn in the kiddy pool once you have looked into the deep end with envy and desire. From this point on, further pastiche is simply cowardice.

It is time to jump.

Art is the imitation of life. Pastiche is the imitation of art. The way you make the jump is simply this: start observing life, start speculating about life. Watch people on the bus. Where are they going. What are they thinking. What horrors are about to befall them? What horrors are they about to commit? Fully observe a person or a scene, then have some horror, some​ unexpected disaster, intervene. How do these people react -- these particular real people that you have so carefully observed and whose inner lives you have imagined -- how do they react. Write that.

It is time to jump.

  • This is a wonderful answer, and it's made me realise the glaring hole in my own answer (I neglected to mention that the inspiration for the stuff people "invent" - at least, if it's any good - will usually come from observation of life, rather than other art). I nonetheless think that imitation (rightly or wrongly) is a big part of any style of literature. Writing is never just about observation of life, and you'll never be able to arrange your observations and creations in a satisfying way unless you know what art you like and - at least to some extent - why. May 10, 2017 at 12:13
  • It hopefully goes without saying, but just to be clear, I say this not because I think you don't know it, but because I think your answer (excellent as it is) would benefit from acknowledging it. May 10, 2017 at 12:17
  • @TheTermiteSociety. Agreed. Perhaps we might say that art requires imitation art in its form but life in its substance, or perhaps it subject. And the form is what you can learn from pastiche. But you must sooner or later you must find your own substance or subject to pour into the learned forms.
    – user16226
    May 10, 2017 at 12:21
  • Yeah, that's a nice way of putting it. It's up to you, of course, but I think you should add that to your answer. May 10, 2017 at 12:27
  • 1
    I suggested fanfic to "get it out of [the OP's] system." In the process of getting it out of your system, you can learn the tools of the craft. When you've written every StormPilot variation in your head and you're finally a bit bored with it, you will then start to see "the stories which have to be told, which you must tell," as you (Mark) have discussed in other answers. I'm trying to help the OP be productive in the right direction while burning off the SQUEEEE energy. In your metaphor, the OP is not at the deep end of the pool, but in the wading pool. Fanfic is swimming lessons. May 10, 2017 at 14:29

I used to do the same thing when I was first starting out. My sense is that it's because you are excited and inspired by The Thing, and you want more of The Thing, so you make more of it by mimicking it.

I'm going to come at a solution for you from an odd angle, so hear me out before you dismiss my answer. My suggestion is that for right now, give in to your obsession, in a specific way: Write fanfic.

Fanfic allows you to do a number of things. First, you can make more of The Thing, unabashedly, without trying to put your own characters in the same plot. If you dig Katniss in the Games, go ahead and write seventeen different drabbles about Katniss in the Games. Then write a character study about Katniss in the city the night before a battle. Then extend it to a day in the life just before the series starts, when they're all in their own districts trying to get through existing. And so on. Write the parts you love and don't apologize for it.

Second, fanfic allows you to practice writing. Particularly if you find a like-minded community and can share your works for constructive feedback, you can practice creating and keeping someone "in character." This is important practice. You can learn how to research backstory (canon) to determine why Katniss/Peeta/Cinna acts in a particular way so that your version behaves "correctly."

This also allows you to practice being edited, receiving feedback, and editing your own work. (And editing the work of others if you get that far.) Editing what you've written is a crucial skill. You need to learn how to accept feedback without getting defensive and how to judge what is a useful comment and what you can disagree with.

Third: After a while of writing fanfic which hews closely to the canon, you will start to come up with your own plots. You may start to come up with your own characters to inhabit those plots. You may start to cross The Thing with other universes. And that way lies... original fiction.

When you've gotten more comfortable with the tools and skills of writing by using them to create derivative works, it will be much easier to use those skills to create original works.

And that is one way to break away from existing works: by going right through them.

  • 3
    Great suggestion! I'd like to add that, when the OP starts writing OCs that take up more and more of the stage (and aren't stuck in a relationship with a canon character), it's the right time to fly off to the land of original fiction. May 10, 2017 at 10:34

Maybe you're focusing too much on what you like, rather than what you like about it. Once you know what you like about something, it's usually not too difficult to come up with something that has those qualities, but in a different way. The deeper you go in your understanding of what you like, the further you can go in your own creations (because the core of it, what makes it work for you, can be retained).

I think this is because if you don't know what you like about the things you like, you'll always be afraid that changing things too much will make them bad.

For example, let's say you give a little thought to your taste, and realise that you really like heroic-underdog-type characters (which you may or may not, of course, but since it's something that all of the things you named have in common, I'll use it as an example). Knowing this, you can create a new character, completely from scratch, making a conscious effort to make them different in every way from the existing characters you like, except in this one aspect that you want to make sure they retain, because you like it.

So you end up with a whole new person, but you still like them, because they're still a heroic underdog.

Or perhaps you don't still like them. If that happens, great. You've now learnt that there are certain qualities you don't like in a character, or certain other qualities you like that you've missed out. Adjust your sense of your own preferences accordingly, and try again.

It takes time and concentrated attention to really understand what you like about things, but once you start thinking like this, you can really run with it. You can start thinking about qualities you like in Thing A, but that are entirely absent from Thing B, or (and this is where it starts to get really fun) things that you think you would like, but which you've never seen in anything.

This isn't to say that simply putting a load of things you like into a story will make it good, but really knowing what you like, and really understanding why you dig whatever it is that you dig, will give you the freedom to strip away those details that aren't so crucial, and replace them with details of your own.

  • 1
    I'd also point out that the more research you do about your setting (whether literal research about a historical, geographical location or worldbuilding) the more you'll start to develop a sense of what makes your world different.
    – Jason Bray
    May 12, 2017 at 19:39

If you don't want to look like you're following a fad, then read lots of stuff that's been around so long that it's in the public domain.

I also recommend reading stuff outside of the genre in which you intend to work.


Specifically, books like Les Miserables, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, anything by Shakespeare, and so forth. You may remember some of it as "the stuff they made us read in school." There's a reason they picked those particular works; in spite of your teacher telling you it's good, it actually is good.

If you have a mobile device, download a free books app (there are a few of them), and then use it to read all of the free novels you can scare up.

  • Got any suggestions? It's helpful but I didn't expect an answer like that, sorry
    – A.N.M
    May 10, 2017 at 1:13

What I do in my works is to "cross" my characters (mainly to disguise them). That is, I make a fictitious character half of one person and half of another, so that neither real life character is fully reflected in my fictitious one.

Say you need an artist. In your shoes, I would cross Michelangelo with an artist you actually know. That way, you can write convincingly about an artist while incorporating something of the published or famous one. In one play, I created a minor character named Jemile Walker by crossing "Jamal Wallace" (of "Finding Forrester" fame), with someone I actually knew.


I'm not really feeling the question. I could never write like that. I'm a fan of write your own story with your own characters. However, if this is the only way you can work try a little mix and match.

e.g. Let's say you are a fan of the original screen "Superman" but you are also a fan of "Star Trek".

So write your S/F story with Lois Lane replacing Lt Uhuru. Margot Kidder (the original screen Lois Lane) was fairly volatile, and was somewhat aggressive. The romantic undertones between Captain Kirk and Lt Uhuru are well documented but what would happen if William Shatner's character hit on Margot Kidder's character - It is likely she'll slap him and threaten to file a sexual harassment lawsuit the moment they return to Earth.

The character will prevent you from duplicating the story. Where as Uhuru will say "Ai, captain." Lois will respond "Whatever." Your story will have to cycle through themes like 'maybe she doth protest too much' and somehow put them in a position whereas they're forced to resolve their differences.

All around you'll see well-known characters placed in alternative environments.


I suggest that you read something else. Seriously.

For example, my local public library has a collection of Agatha Christie murder mysteries. After the first one or two, they are like jelly beans. The author's world (which spanned decades) is so unlike sci-fi or fantasy. And, her stories involve a lot of human interaction.

I'll never write like she did (wouldn't want to). But now, I think I know how to do it, if I wanted to do it.

I've already worked my way through Raymond Chandler, much of August Derleth, and some other writers. If I wrote sci-fi, I'd go through a number of authors whose works are not directly linked to movies, television, or video games.

It seems to me that much of contemporary writing (so to speak) is too closely linked to visible action. That's where the money is. If you look at older works, you will find many instances in which the interaction among the characters reveals "where they are at" rather than "what will happen next."


From a practical standpoint, I think the solution is much the same as the solution to idea-generation in many other contexts. I'd recommend you brainstorm like crazy, and the real issue is what prompts you use for your brainstorming.

So you like The Hunger Games, but you don't want to imitate it too blatantly? Start brainstorming key differences you could use. In The Hunger Games, the characters are forced to compete as retaliation for past rebellion. So start listing alternate motivations--e.g., scarcity of resources pits tribes against one another for access. In THG, the participants are drawn at random, and the protagonist volunteered to take her sister's place. Now list other ideas for how participants could be chosen. But wait, who says the combat has to be physical? List other possible contests. Do the losers have to die? List some alternate consequences of losing.

Once you have listed enough of these alternatives to various plot elements, start looking for ways to combine them. Perhaps you end up with a scenario in which participants work their rumps off through years of secondary school in order to be chosen to represent their families at the university. In this world resources were nearly depleted years ago, and only those students who show the most promise for scientific prowess that might save humanity will be granted privileged status. This status earns them access to the scarce medicines that let their families live beyond their thirties or forties.

This scenario was the result of brainstorming possible deviations from THG one plot element at a time. But does it sound like a THG rip-off? Not at all.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.